Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Fifth Session of the World Urban Forum, to be held in Rio de Janeiro from 22 to 26 March:
I am pleased to send greetings to all participants in the World Urban Forum. I thank President [Luiz Inácio Lula] da Silva, the Brazilian Government and the city and people of Rio de Janeiro for generously hosting this premier global meeting on cities.
You gather at a critical time. In the coming decades, up to two thirds of all people will live in cities. Many will have to cope with devastating urban poverty and the worsening impacts of climate change. I commend you for confronting these problems.
Advocates and policymakers have realized important gains in recent years. Some 22 million people in developing countries managed to leave slums each year for the past decade. But this meaningful achievement is not nearly enough. During the same period, the total number of people living in slums jumped from just over 776 million to more than 827 million.
Conditions in slums are a violation of human rights. The children who have no clean water to drink, the women who fear for their safety, the young people who have no chance to receive a decent education have a right to better, and we have a responsibility to do better. All people have the right to safe drinking water, sanitation, shelter and basic services. All people have the right to live with a sense of security. All people should have the opportunity to work for a better future.
Helping slum-dwellers to reclaim their rights will do more than improve the lot of individuals; it will strengthen society as a whole and protect our shared environment. Most of the world’s commercial energy is consumed in cities; cities also generate 80 per cent of all waste and 60 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. By tackling urban poverty, we can drive these numbers down. We can create cleaner, greener cities and promote human rights simultaneously.
Your plan to launch the World Urban Campaign will advance our work to reach these lifesaving goals. I wish you great success with this initiative.
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